Christmas is a time for peace on earth, a time for favorite carols, family dinners, and familiar traditions. It’s about a beautiful story of a lovely babe in the manger. Or is it?
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About the Author
Verlyn Verbrugge (PhD, Notre Dame) was a full-time pastor before becoming senior editor of academic and professional books at Zondervan. He has authored and contributed to several books, including Early Church History and Your Church Sign.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Unfortunately, I was not able to finish this book before Christmas and I wish I had because it does succeed in making you think differently about our traditional perceptions of the Christmas story. Although I was initially unhappy with the writing style and assertions made in the first few chapters (mainly that Christmas was the beginning of a war and the vague references to words and passages that may have a war connotations) the book held my interest in the later chapters. Some of the examples I found to be more interesting included the extent of humiliation that Mary suffered for having become pregnant out of wedlock, the explanation of the word katalyma (which means 'guest room' more than the 'inn' that we normally picture) and that it could very well have been Joseph's own relatives that turned them away, the description of the extent to which Jesus humbled himself by coming as a completely dependent infant and leaving the glories of heaven, and the alternative picture of the 'chorus of angels' that very well may have been like a host of heavenly soldiers announcing the arrival of their 'chief'.Although I do think the book succeeds in its purpose of presenting a perhaps more truthful view of the birth of Christ to the reader, I did have some issues with parts of it. For one thing, the writing was not always very clear. There were too many quotes and references just thrown into the text. They made reading cumbersome and would perhaps have made better footnotes for the reader to investigate if they so desired. I also thought the use of the word "Devil" was childish and that "Satan" would have been more appropriate and scholarly.I do not think this book is going to be enjoyable for everyone simply wanting to learn a little more about Christmas because it does presuppose a decent knowledge of scripture and Biblical history. Catholics may also find it a bit offensive due to the Protestant view of Mary-how she was not a perpetual virgin, had other children besides Jesus, and needed Jesus to be her savior as well. Nevertheless, it was an interesting read and discusses some things that all Christians should contemplate. If you are not easily upset by other views that do not completely agree with yours, and are willing to read with an open mind, the book will not disappoint.
The Shadow of a Cross Hung Over the Manger in BethlehemChristmas is the happiest time of the year, or so we choose to believe. Likewise, we tend to see Easter as a sad time of year. At Christmas we celebrate the birth of the promised Messiah, the fulfillment of the promise God made at the Fall, when sin separated Adam and Eve and all their offspring from the presence of God. Thus the birth of the baby Jesus, announced by an angel of the Lord to humble shepherds in the surrounding fields and accompanied by an angelic chorus, is truly a time of joy. All of creation, not just the children of Adam and Eve, ¿lay . . . in sin and error pining,¿ for that moment when the Son of God, the promised Messiah, would leave his glory in heaven to be born of a virgin, to walk among humankind in true humanity as the second Adam, in order that He might reverse the error of the first Adam. Indeed, there is reason aplenty to rejoice at Christmas. But there is more, much more.In his new book, A Not-So-Silent Night: The Unheard Story of Christmas and Why It Matters (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2009), Verlyn D. Verbrugge reminds us that the true significance of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem is found in His crucifixion outside the gates of Jerusalem some thirty-three years later and his resurrection some three days after that. What Dr. Verbrugge wants us to remember and think about during this festive season is the war between Jesus Christ and Satan that began that night in Bethlehem and raged until that glorious moment thirty-three years later when the stone was rolled away from the tomb and the crucified and dead Jesus was raised from the dead by the Father. Satan did all he could to prevent that event. Jesus had to literally fight His way to the Cross. Those intervening years witnessed the greatest struggle in history. Everything, truly everything, hung in the balance. In a brief hundred pages, only eleven short chapters, Dr. Verbrugge recounts this epic drama, ¿the greatest story ever told.¿ The humble circumstances of Jesus¿ birth, His rejection by those whom He came to save, the humiliation suffered by Mary, His mother, and the courage of His adoptive, earthly father Joseph are all highlighted. Verbrugge reminds us that Mary was not an ignorant participant in this struggle. Her song in Luke 1, known to us as the Magnificat, is ¿primarily a song of conflict and war¿and of God¿s power to vindicate those who are trodden down . . . [it] is about the mighty warrior God, whose sovereign plan of history will always emerge victorious.¿Dr. Verbrugge wants us to hear again a second song, the song of Simeon in Luke 2. When Joseph and Mary take the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem to be dedicated, they are confronted by Simeon, an old man whom the Holy Spirit promised would not die until he had seen God¿s promised Messiah. Simeon¿s response is another pronouncement of the earthly struggle between the Messiah and Satan. How Mary must have felt when she heard Simeon say, ¿And a sword will pierce your own soul too.¿ He was not telling Mary something she did not already know. He was reminding her that her son was born to die, in order that God¿s people, of whom Mary was one, might be reconciled to God.A Not-So-Silent Night is a welcome reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. Short, yet well-written and full of meaning, Dr. Verbrugge¿s latest book will change how we view Christmas. Never again will the reader be able to look at a manger scene without seeing the Shadow of the Cross hanging over it. We should weep, as well as rejoice at Christmas, and we should rejoice as well as weep at Easter. Thanks be to God!-Paul R. Waibel